The Crooked Man
First published in: Strand Magazine, July 1893; Harper’s Weekly, July 8, 1893
Time frame of story (known/surmised): Late summer, mid-to-late 1880’s
H&W living arrangements: Watson has been married a few months, was living with wife in their house and practicing medicine.
Opening scene: Holmes makes a late-night (11:45) call on Watson, asks to stay the night. Then H&W went off the next morning on the case. Jackson covered Watson’s practice.
Client: At the request of Major Murphy, Holmes went down to Aldershot to supplement the efforts of the police.
Crime or concern: Apparent murder of Col. James Barclay, a gallant veteran and commander of The Royal Munsters (which was the old One Hundred and Seventeenth), one of the most famous Irish regiments in the British Army. Later, the medical evidence showed conclusively that death was due to apoplexy. Following the death, the wife was temporarily insane from an acute attack of brain-fever.
Villain: None, more or less. If anything, the victim was the bad guy. It was a just Providence that killed him. Colonel died of apoplexy (stroke) upon seeing Henry Wood, who was the crooked (crippled) man, who crawled with a stick like a chimpanzee . Thirty years earlier, Wood had been crippled as a result of torture after being sent on a suicide mission arranged by Col. Barclay and captured . The two had been rival suitors of the same woman who favored Henry Wood but married Barclay after Wood’s presumed death.
Motive: During the Indian rebellion, Barclay sent Wood on the mission to get him out of the way so he could have the Colour-Sergeant’s daughter, whom they were both wooing.
Thirty years later, at the death scene, Wood entered the room and was ready to kill Barclay, but Barclay passed out and hit his head on the fender, killing him.
Logic used to solve: Closed-room mystery, except for door to outside. Key missing from the inside of the door indicated a third person (in addition to Colonel and wife) were present. There were also footprints of an unknown animal. Reference to “David” heard by servants in argument between Colonel and wife in the closed room led Holmes to suspect a love triangle.
Policemen: The police had been at the scene to investigate, but solved nothing.
Holmes’ fees: no mention
Transport: H&W started by the 11:10 from Waterloo.
Food and drink: no mention
Vices: In opening scene, Holmes observes fluffy pipe ashes on Watson’s coat, announces Watson still smokes “the Arcadia mixture of your bachelor days.” H&W then smoked a pipe together with pleasure.
After having gathered the facts, Holmes smoked several pipes over them.
Other cases mentioned: none
Notable Quotables: “’Elementary,’ said he.” (This is as close as it gets to “Elementary, my dear Watson”, words which were never spoken (at least recorded) by Holmes.)
SH: “You’ve had the British workman in the house. He‘s a token of evil. Not the drains, I hope?”
SH: “David strayed a little occasionally, you know, and on one occasion in the same direction as Sergeant James Barclay. You remember the small affair of Uriah and Bathsheba? My Biblical knowledge is a trifle rusty, I fear, but you will find the story in the first or second of Samuel.”
Other Interestings: A “fender” is a short metal railing that goes around the perimeter of the hearth of a fireplace or stove.
In the intro to VALL, Holmes could not accept the compliment that a Bible may lie at his elbow. Yet, he cites the story of Uriah and Bathsheba, and David’s sending Uriah to his death. Maybe Holmes learned something in chapel before the curious incident of the dog-bite.
In telling the story to Watson, Holmes showed some emotion, then resumed that red-Indian composure which had made so many regard him as a machine rather than a man.
When all is said and done: Barclay had caused Wood’s capture. Wood eventually returned to England, made his living as a conjurer, using Teddy, the mongoose and a de-fanged snake. Met up with Mrs. Barclay, followed her home, and went in to interfere when husband and wife were arguing.
Wood took the key without thinking about it. The animal, a mongoose, had nothing to do with any of it.